The number of “early school” leavers, which refers to those leaving education and training at the age of 18-24, has marked a steady decrease within the European Union over the last decade, dropping from 13.8 percent in 2010 to 9.9 percent in 2020.
According to Eurostat data, during 2020, more young men left education and training early, compared to women. Differently, compared to 2019, the number of men leaving school early was the same, while the number of women marked a slight decrease by 0.4 percent.
Nearly all EU Member States saw a small percentage of early leavers in 2020, excluding Slovakia, Czechia, Hungary, Sweden, Luxembourg, and Bulgaria, which all reported a slight increase.
Member States which have reported the lowest numbers of education and training early leavers during 2020 include:
- Croatia: 2.2 percent
- Greece: 3.8 percent
- Slovenia: 4.1 percent
- Ireland: 5.0 percent
- Poland: 5.4 percent
On the other hand, the highest shares were seen in Malta with 16.7 percent, Spain with 16.0 percent, Romania with 15.6 percent, Italy with 13.1 percent and Bulgaria with 12.8 percent.
Data further highlights that 18 Member States which have already met the EU-level target for 2023 for the indicator early leavers from education and training, are: Belgium, Czechia, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, France, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, and Sweden.
The number of early leavers from education and training in 2020 was lower among young women compared to young men across all EU Member States, except for Romania and Czechia.
Eurostat points out that the ‘early leavers from education and training’ indicator is defined as the proportion of the population aged 18-24 who have completed at most lower secondary level education and did not continue the education and training further.
In 2016, the highest share of early leavers from education and training among non-EU countries was recorded in Turkey at 34.3 percent and the lowest in Switzerland at 4.8 percent.
There are several reasons why early education leaving takes place, including unemployment, poverty and poor health, social exclusion, but it could also be linked to personal or family problems, learning difficulties, socio-economic situation, etc.
In a bid to reduce the early education leaving, the EU education ministers adopted a Council Recommendation, which creates a framework for comprehensive and evidence-based policies. The ministers agreed to cooperate in exchanging knowledge and the best practices to tackle the issue of early education leaving.